Does My Child Have An Internet Addiction?
Internet Addiction Disorder is a real disorder that can impair someone's ability to carry out their daily duties and negatively impact their relationships. Although it is not registered in the DSM-V - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder - the disorder is still extremely prevalent across both America and Europe and research has found that it can impact up-to 38% of the population.
Based on how the addiction can impact the brain, it has even been likened to affecting the brain in the same ways as drug and alcohol addiction: in the long-term, it can alter your brain structure in the prefrontal brain - the part of your brain that is responsible for prioritizing tasks.
According to OPPO, in less than 5 years, 90 percent of the world’s population will have a smartphone. In some countries As smartphones become more ingrained with our daily lives, researchers, public health officials and parents have been trying to determine the impact of screen time on children.
Why Should You Be Concerned As A Parent
One of the most concerning aspects of Internet Addiction is the disparity it can create between reality and the fantasy that the individual is drawn into due to their over-consumption of the internet.
According to The Sun, children have turned violent when their parents try to get them to stop playing games up through the night. Children as young as seven years old have been reported to be playing Fornite, a game based on the concept of Battle Royale.
With the bombardment of perfect body images, the desire to live a certain lifestyle and the preoccupation with materialism, it is easy to understand how individuals can get lost in this unattainable dream. When children or adults alike discover that they can't reach these certain goals, their self-esteem starts to become affected and they find themselves drawn further into this online fantasy world.
Worryingly, alongside the impact that Internet Addiction can have on your child's well-being, there are also physical symptoms such as weight gain; backache or neck ache from prolonged periods of time staring at the screen; and poor personal hygiene.
What Are The Signs of Internet Addiction?
We can all be a little guilty of procrastinating- especially when there is a large task that we don't want to face or there is something much more exciting that we would like to do; but what happens when that distraction turns into an addiction?
Internet Addiction can manifest itself in numerous ways and with perpetual exposure to social media sights, trending news articles and apps, it isn't surprising that we become so easily distracted by what pops-up on our phone.
If your child is no longer interested in spending time doing real activities and hobbies that they've always enjoyed doing or you've noticed how distant and fatigued they seem all the time, these can all be signs of Internet Addiction.
Additionally, if they're staying up into the early hours there might also be a decline in their work performance and secretive behavior around their internet usage could be a key indicator.
What Can You Do?
First of all, it might be useful to try and understand if your child is struggling with something and if their internet addiction is a means for escapism. Perhaps attempt to spend some quality time with your child so that they can have an opportunity to discuss anything that might be bothering them or any difficult emotions that they are contending with.
If your child is spending extensive amounts of time on the internet in chat-rooms, maybe try to encourage them to join a new group or club where they can make friends and have face-to-face interactions. Another option could also be to progressively reduce the amount of time that you allow them to spend online. If they are not willing to negotiate reducing the time that they spend on the internet then you might consider using a parental lock and setting an online timer so that they can only spend a maximum of no more than one hour a day online.
If all these avenues do not work, you may wish to seek professional help of trained child psychologists such as New Vision Psychology. A counsellor specialising in children's therapy can diagnose and provide treatment options, especially if an unhealthy focus on video games is actually a product of a mental health issue rather than an addiction.